Regional Press Research

By The Drum, Administrator

June 2, 2005 | 5 min read

If you were to think about your average week in terms of where you bought your groceries, went to the gym or looked for a new house, chances are you did all three close to where you live. Few people are going to travel miles to do something they can do relatively close to home, but how much of that is due to convenience and how much to advertising?

According to the Newspaper Society’s Consumer V research last year, consumers are very local-focused when it comes to buying not just their groceries but also most purchases. Just over one-half of the survey sample shopped for groceries within two miles of their home. The average distance travelled for the entire sample of 1,515 adults aged 18+ was just 3.8 miles. Only two per cent of the sample would travel 20 or more miles.

Now whether they shop locally because of ease or because of advertising is difficult to pin down. Despite the rise of online shopping for groceries, just eight per cent of the sample used the internet to obtain details of grocery offers, with just under one-half citing leaflets as their main source of information and 24 per cent getting information from regional papers. Somewhat surprisingly, local radio was only mentioned by three per cent.

It may be easy to explain why consumers choose to carry out frequent activities such as grocery shopping close to home, but for bigger, occasional purchases, such as furniture or white goods, you would expect them to invest a bit more travel. Not so. 29 per cent of the survey only travelled between three and five miles to purchase furniture or carpets, with just over 20 per cent travelling ten or more miles. Regional press advertising is often the prompt for them to purchase from a local store, with one in five of those questioned saying they had contacted or visited a store as a result of seeing an ad in their local or regional press.

Shoppers who had recently bought white electrical goods were most likely to shop around slightly more than those who had recently bought brown electrical goods, with 55 per cent of white goods purchasers visiting two or more shops, and just under one-half of the latter visiting one or more. Almost one in five of shoppers for both categories contacted or visited a store because of an ad in the regional press.

Robert Ray, marketing director of the Newspaper Society, believes their knowledge of their readers’ local lives makes local papers successful. “One reason why local press is so good at driving sales is because, quite simply, people tend to do most of their spending close to where they live,” he said. “And in order to help them make decisions, they refer to a local source.”

Ray’s perception is based on the society’s research which showed that 11 per cent of the survey felt their local paper reflected their concerns and worries better than daily newspapers, the BBC, the three commercial TV channels or local and national commercial radio stations. When it comes to acting on advertising across mediums, again regional newspaper advertising scores highly, with 22 per cent saying they had acted upon an ad in their local paper.

For the more life-crucial decisions such as property purchasing or changing jobs, consumers tend to go through the more obvious channels. Of those in the survey who had moved house in the previous ten years, 35 per cent had found their new home through an estate agent but 17 per cent used their local newspaper. Similarly when looking for a job, one-quarter relied on word of mouth, but 14 per cent used the recruitment section in their local newspaper. When actively looking for a job, nearly three-quarters looked in their local paper, while just 18 per cent used the Job Centre.

Grant Gorrie, regional director of Mediaforce, believes advertisers have a huge opportunity when it comes to regional newspapers in Scotland, an opinion it has invested in with the launch of MediaforceConnect. “With two-thirds of the Scottish population living outside the four major cities, the local press delivers advertisers crucial coverage that Scottish national titles cannot,” he said. “Nowhere in the UK are paid-for weeklies stronger than they are in Scotland.”

The perception seems to be that regional newspapers are considered most trustworthy out of all other media, including the BBC, with 20 per cent of the survey base placing regional newspapers over that broadcaster. This level of trust is important for advertisers, said Gorrie. “Regional newspapers have always enjoyed the trust of their readers,” he said. “This is becoming increasingly recognised by advertisers who are keen to associate with such trusted brands. More and more we are being asked to develop advertising solutions that allow advertisers to reach into communities and connect with local audiences. There is no question that ‘life is local’.”

According to Ray, the growing affection for regional newspapers is part of society’s reaction to globalisation. “The Future Foundation’s report, entitled myuk. concludes that people are spending increasing amounts of time out and about in their region, and are becoming more attached to local culture in reaction to the standardising effect of globalisation,” he said. “It suggests that there is an increased appreciation of local differences among the UK population and a growing level of interest in local news and events, with 48 per cent of people being more interested in things that happened in a city or town where they lived. 65 per cent of people think that a regional newspaper makes an important contribution to regional identity, a conviction that is spread across the age groups, and most prevalent in the areas with the strongest sense of identity. This suggests that a broad cross-section of the population appreciate the service provided by their local or regional newspaper, so they play an important role.”


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